Expert Blog

We Are Evolving to a Free Agent Nation!

By Bill Price

Many companies today are playing by a different set of rules than they have in prior generations in order to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.  Unfortunately, some companies may fall in the trap of treating their people like commodity resources.  In many cases, the employer / employee relationship is not built on the same foundation of commitment that once existed.

As a consequence, here in the US Market, the days of working your entire career for 1 or 2 employers and retiring with a fat pension is a pipedream for most of us. The result can be career fatigue, lack of trust in the workplace, and a culture that has employees, managers and even owners walking on eggshells. Is this the new normal? 

Before answering that question, consider the employers perspective by examining a typical situation faced by many of the senior level clients we serve.  Our corporate clients are dealing with the following types of questions:

What work should we outsource?

What work should we keep?

What work should we centralize?

What work should we decentralize?

How do I minimize costs and still provide the exceptional experience our stakeholders expect from the organization?

How do we equip our employees for success?

How do we create a sustainable workforce?

How do I manage and price my portfolio of products and services?  

In summary, clients are wondering, what work to do and where to do it and how to maximize value in the process?

Trends today are for the work to find the most efficient and cost effective path to completion.  It is good business to optimize the value chain.  Companies, and people that are the most successful, understand they need to target areas where they win and focus on winning! Areas that are outside of their sweet spot are the leading candidates for outsourcing; especially if those areas do not create value for the organization.  These types of activities tend to get lumped into the category of shared services or back office support. 

So, is this the new normal?  My belief is that we are in the middle of a transformation period.

Companies are adjusting to competitive global market conditions, driven by advancing technology that enables companies to grow by leveraging diverse resources on a global basis. By the nature of the changing business climate, there will be ongoing pressure to keep costs down by using expensive talent on an “as needed” basis rather than on “full time” basis. 

For employees, it can be a vicious cycle… to climb the ladder of success, employees typically need to specialize and become great in their chosen craft in order to advance in their career.  This leads to higher compensation and career growth, but introduces more risk into the equation; high compensation is in direct conflict with an organization’s goal to control costs and that creates competitive tension. It’s a delicate balance.  Does experienced talent need a new platform on which to work?

There are at least three perspectives and an interesting balance of power among the employers, employees and consumers. 

Consumers sit at the top of the food chain is the voice of the customer because they are the consumers of the products and services being provided.  The organizations and “free agents” with the ability to respond to hear and respond to the voice of the customer will have the greatest success.  Consumers have options and that is one of the many things that helps make our free economy great. 

For Employers, your company is only as good as your people, and the emerging best practice is to focus on our core competencies and use trusted partners for the rest.  Great companies are evolving to this new reality without jeopardizing the employer / employee relationship while building strong partner relations in support of serving the customer.  The recipe for success is for employers to create an efficient operating model where employers are given clear expectations, appropriate training and the tools, resources and total rewards to be successful in responding to the voice of the customer. To sustain the operating model, employers must also balance this by creating a culture of trust build on the foundation of honor, dignity and respect for all who serve and attract partners with the same value system.

For Employees, performance expectations are greater than ever and the way employees work is evolving.  To maximize longevity with an employer, focus on become an integral component to core operations.  For those doing non-core activities, and project work, the risk to longevity is great.  On a positive note, this situation creates an emerging opportunity for the entrepreneurial minded professional.  Here is the key question for that group is… are you going to control your career or is your career going to control you?  Life is a series of choices and there are endless options when confronting this evolving market.  Drifting along is one of the most expensive choices you can make as it burns not only time and money, but also your ability to reach your potential and it inhibits your ability to share your wisdom with others.  There are many who find their fit in great organizations but, there is clearly an emerging way to work… for those up to the challenge, the opportunity now is greater than ever to build your own business in response to market demand.  Find a niche where you win… and win. 

Now more than ever, our economy needs experienced leaders.  The OnTarget Co. exists to help organizations and individuals reach their potential.  One of the ways we do this is by providing the servant leader executive with a place to collaborate with other like-minded professionals, and a platform and framework for success as we become a Free Agent Nation.  Our goal here is to be the destination where the demand for exceptional seasoned leadership meets the supply of exceptional leadership on an “as needed” basis. We are simply responding to what the market demands and the voice of the customer.